"Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (Revelation 12:12).
If we consider the whole picture, there should be no doubt that this is Satan's world rather than God's. Paul even refers to our era as "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4).
However, Satan will not always dominate planet earth. Bible prophecy reveals that an astounding series of events will shake our world as never before and usher in a new age—a 1,000-year era under the reign of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10; Luke 21:31).
This good news of the coming Kingdom of God is at the heart of Christ's teaching: "Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15).
The transition from Satan's domination of the earth to Jesus Christ's rule will be neither easy nor painless. The prophet Daniel describes it as "a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then" (Daniel 12:1, NIV). Christ stated that no human being would survive if God did not intervene in world affairs to establish His Kingdom, ousting Satan from his control over humanity (Matthew 24:21-22).
Signs of the end of the age
As the end of Christ's earthly ministry drew near, the disciples asked Him when the events leading to His Kingdom's establishment would occur: "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3). Jesus summarized the trends and events that would characterize that time. A quick review of the list reads remarkably like today's headlines.
Jesus responded: "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5, King James Version). He was speaking here of widespread false religion in His name—a great false Christianity.
Jesus continued: "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6-8).
He described other significant trends—persecution and hatred directed at God's true servants, increasing religious deception and the proclamation of the true gospel of the Kingdom of God to all the world (Matthew 24:9-14).
The world, Christ said, would grow increasingly dangerous as His return nears. "It will be a time of great distress," He warned, "such as there has never been before since the beginning of the world, and will never be again. If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God's chosen it will be cut short" (Matthew 24:21-22, Revised English Bible).
Religious deception will continue to increase, He said, followed by dramatic heavenly signs (Matthew 24:23-29). These will be followed by a world-transforming event: "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).
Satan's role in the end time
Jesus' prophecy is an overview of end-time events. Many other prophecies, mostly in the book of Revelation, fill in various details.
Satan will not relinquish his kingdom without a fight. As the time of Christ's return draws near, we can read this sobering warning in Revelation 12:12: "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time." Many prophecies go on to detail a frenzy of destruction directed at God's Church, at the people of Israel, at humanity as a whole, and at the returning Jesus Christ.
Satan's wrath is focused principally on those in the Church, symbolically represented by a woman in Revelation 12. "And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17).
Religious persecution will again rear its ugly head—at Satan's instigation (Revelation 2:10). "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake," warned Jesus. "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another" (Matthew 24:9-10).
Mark preserves another chilling detail from Christ's prophecy about this promised persecution: "Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death" (Mark 13:12). Revelation 6:9-11 further describes this period of martyrdom.
Great religious deception coming
We earlier read that religious deception will increase as Christ's return draws near. Satan will have a direct hand in the rise of a great leader who will play a pivotal role in a massive end-time religious deception.
Writing of events preceding Christ's return, Paul tells us "that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This man "opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
How could such a person claim to be God and convince others to believe him? Paul adds that "the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing" (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, NIV). These powerful miracles will convince many, but in reality they are the deceptive handiwork of Satan.
Regrettably, this man's deception will take in millions of people. In the cataclysm that will mark the end of this age, many will fall victim to a "powerful delusion" and "perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NIV).
This should be a sobering warning to all of us. If we do not love the truth, if our beliefs are not firmly grounded in the truth of God's Word and we do not have the strength of character to hold fast to them, we also could easily fall prey to this or other satanic deceptions. It has happened before, and both Jesus and Paul assure us it will happen again.
A satanic war against humanity
Although Satan's attitude of hatred, greed and resentment has led mankind into countless wars down through history, prophecy reveals that the devil will personally orchestrate one last great worldwide conflagration shortly before Christ returns.
In Revelation 9:1-12 we read about what appears to be an enormous military force depicted as a cloud of locusts arising from a bottomless pit. Terrifying devices, locust like in appearance with tails like scorpions and wings sounding as a large force of chariots and horses—perhaps modern helicopters, as some have suggested —inflict people with pain that is compared to scorpion stings but without killing them (Revelation 9:5-10). The results sound similar to the effects of a new generation of weapons that cause searing pain to disable enemies without permanent injury.
Leading this wave of suffering as "king over them" is "the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon" (Revelation 9:11). These titles mean "destruction" and "destroyer," respectively. This being appears to be none other than Satan himself, whose character and reason for being are perfectly summed up by those titles.
We then read of the rise of a massive military force 200 million strong (Revelation 9:16). An unimaginable carnage begins. A third of mankind—literally billions of people at earth's current population level—die in this great war (Revelation 9:15-18), dwarfing all casualties in all previous wars.
In this frenzy of destruction it appears that, if Satan can no longer maintain his control on humanity with the impending return of Christ, he will instigate the slaughter of as many as he can. (To learn more about these prophetic events, download or request your free copies of the booklets The Book of Revelation Unveiled, The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy and You Can Understand Bible Prophecy.)
Satan's last stand
In Revelation 13 we find that Satan will be behind the rise of two "beasts." One will be an end-time coalition of nations led by a powerful human ruler who will "make war with the saints and...overcome them" (Revelation 13:1-7). The other will be a false religious system led by the religious leader we read about earlier (Revelation 13:11-18)—who is also known as "the false prophet" (Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20).
Demons—as spiritual emissaries of the dragon (Satan), the Beast and the False Prophet—"go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:13-14).
Unaware of events going on behind the scenes, these kings will be mere pawns in Satan's plan. Though their intent will be to fight each other, Satan's objective will be to use the world's armies to fight Jesus Christ at His return. Their armies will gather on a large plain adjoining "Armageddon" (Revelation 16:16)—that is, in Hebrew, Har Megiddo ("hill of Megiddo")—an ancient stronghold about 55 miles north of Jerusalem. The final battle will take place at Jerusalem against the returning Jesus Christ (Zechariah 14:1-15).
Revelation 19 describes Christ's triumphant return to the earth: "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.
"He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords" (Revelation 19:11-16, NIV).
These verses show conclusively that all the armies of the earth will prove to be nothing compared with the power of earth's coming King, Jesus the Messiah.
"And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse" (Revelation 19:19-21).
With his armies defeated, Satan's kingdom is dismantled and destroyed. But Satan and his demons must be stopped from continuing to deceive and manipulate mankind. And that is assured through what John sees next in his vision: "And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended" (Revelation 20:1-3, NIV).
This coming end of Satan's rule over the world will mark the end of "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). He and his demons will then be isolated from humanity for the next 1,000 years. With the battle for control of the earth over, it will at last be time for a new age to begin!